Tree of Life Christian Schools will appeal the most recent court ruling in its long-running attempt to open a school in Upper Arlington's largest office building.
The latest in the more than seven-year legal battle came Oct. 13 when Judge George Smith of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled against Tree of Life in its continued quest to open a school at 5000 Arlington Centre Blvd.
Smith ruled the church failed to show that comparable, non-religious organizations have been treated more fairly by the city and zoning laws applied to the Office and Research District that govern the 15.8-acre property and office that Tree of Life purchased in August 2010.
The court also accepted the city's argument that a similar use, such as a daycare center, would generate $4.77 of income per square foot of office space, whereas the nonprofit Tree of Life school would be exempt from paying business taxes and would generate only 62 cents of income per square foot.
Smith also found "there is no dispute that the city of Upper Arlington made clear to plaintiff long before the purchase of the property that schools were not a permitted or conditional use in the ORC Office and Research District."
Further, he ruled Tree of Life's proposed use of the property "is not consistent with the regulatory purpose of the ORC Office and Research District - to maximize income, whereas permitted uses such as banks, hotels/motels, and hospitals do serve that purpose."
"We are very pleased with the ruling," Upper Arlington City Attorney Jeanine Hummer said. "TOL is a school and the city's zoning code does not permit any schools in this zoning district.
"The city wants the property to be used under the uses permitted by the code," she said. "Schools are not permitted. TOL knew this at the time of purchase."
Erik Stanley, an attorney for Tree of Life who works for the Kansas-based Alliance Defending Freedom, did not respond to requests for comment on the latest ruling in the case.
However, Tree of Life notified the U.S. District Court Nov. 8 that it will appeal Smith's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
The appeal to the Sixth Circuit would be the end of the line for the lawsuit, unless the case is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and those justices agree to hear the case.